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Can Good Taste Be Passed on to Your Kids?

May 19, 2011

by Caleb Gardner handmade and vintage goods


Caleb Gardner is an amateur father and husband who writes at The Exceptional Man and dabbles in photography, design, and music. When listening to the cacophony of modern-day America, Caleb prefers a side of Scotch. He calls Chicago home, and in winter, less-nice things.

Let me start by coming clean: I have absolutely no answer to this question. And in the big picture – taking into consideration things like getting a good education, having a happy life and a fulfilling career, finding love – I suppose it isn’t that important. But it feels important to me.

When I found out I was having a son a little over two years ago, I realized that I was going to be the primary male influence in his life. This revelation was heavy, in a way that only parental responsibility can be. It caused a lot of gray hairs, and a lot of reflection on what kind of father – what kind of man – I wanted to be for my son.

I spent nights taking inventory of a host of questions I felt like I had to answer before he was born. They ranged from the noble (How do I want him to act? How do I want him to treat his mother – to treat all women? How do I teach him to have integrity? To be brave? To be kind?) to the peripheral (What kind of music should he listen to? How can I teach him to have style? To play sports? To approach a girl he likes without being a jerk about it?).

I know I’m not the first father, or even the first parent, to give consideration to these kinds of questions. Questions of character are universal. Of course we all want our children to be admirable people, to make a contribution to society, to be generous, etc. But if we’re honest, most of us also want the peripheral. We want our children to carry on our taste to the next generation.


My taste is one of the things that makes me me. It’s the opposite of universal: it defines me as an individual. And I guess I want my son to like the same things I like because he’s literally an extension of me as an individual. He’s my opportunity to validate myself. Dad, can I borrow your herringbone tweed sport coat? I have a date. I’m taking her to The National concert you recommended. We’re going to talk about how much the Dallas Cowboys suck.

Will I still be happy with him if he turns out to be a jumpsuit-wearing Nickelback fan? Of course I will. He’s my son, and I’m proud of him, regardless of the circumstances. I know he’ll eventually go through a period of rebellion, where everything I enjoy is the opposite of cool. But I like to think that I can intervene in the taste-defining process enough to point him in the right direction, without having him resent me.

How am I going to do this? No idea. But I’m going to start by introducing him to the things I like just as he introduces me to the things he likes. Hours of watching Thomas the Tank Engine have already given me a head start.

Does this feel as important to you as it does to me? How do you share your interests with your kids?

More Parenting Posts | Handmade Kids Series


  • JudiPaintedit

    JudiPaintedit said 6 years ago

    Awesome read! Im sure you will be one kick a$$ Dad...;o)

  • emandbee

    emandbee said 6 years ago

    My parents taught all of us to dress well by example, they are both very trendy, they also had the money so no matter what I wanted to wear they had the final say. And they made us all artistic and appreciate great things just by opening our minds to it at a very young age.

  • calebgardner

    calebgardner said 6 years ago

    @Judi - Thanks! I like to thank so. :) @emandbee Love that example. That gives me hope.

  • DeliciousDifference

    DeliciousDifference said 6 years ago

    So much of what you pass on--and what of your self you pass on--is by being yourself. I don't mean to contrast "being yourself" with "being someone else", but rather with "doing" yourself--you can pointedly tell him that the Cowboys suck, and list all the reasons why, and that may be doing yourself, but you are also being articulate and opinionated--and regardless of his end opinion of that sports franchise, he'll remember and integrate you into his view and memories of it. As for interests--you're already adding them, and the opportunities just don't stop! I still remember one of the first ways my mom taught me women could have a say in relationships (an interest and strong belief of hers)--she read me "The Paper Bag Princess". I was two. Now is an awesome time to play with him with your favorite music in the background, talk to your wife the way you want him to talk to his--he'll sponge it up better, and faster, than we can imagine or describe (amazing, to think that we once did something similar).

  • AuthenticAVictoria

    AuthenticAVictoria said 6 years ago

    No matter the style, raise your child with integrity. Teach your child what it truly means to be good, and how kindness will make the world a better place. I am currently almost five months pregnant, and I have similar concerns. But, what matters most to me, is the quality of his character. This world needs all the good people we can get. =) A father that cares like you, is sure to do this naturally. Good luck! <3

  • JasmineLund

    JasmineLund said 6 years ago

    I loved reading this... seeing parents that care to bring up their children to be good, not just to be another kid. I'm not a parent yet, but have seen parenting from many angles (especially through my older siblings' eyes). I think that one key factor in your "taste" relationship with your children is not to be narrow-minded. Before you tell your child that something is ugly or gross, think it over. Why is it ugly or gross? Is it just you? Or is it actually basically evil in design? Before you disagree on music, listen to the child's favorite music; the melody, the harmony, the lyrics. Think about it before you give an opinion. Control your tastes; don't let them control you.

  • TipsyTimeMachine

    TipsyTimeMachine said 6 years ago

    I got my love of classic movies and musicals from my mother, and science fiction from my father. Some things I never got (professional football). A child`s personality is a mixture of nature and nurture, so I think if you expose them to the things you love, chances are a few things will stick and the rest will fall by the wayside.

  • hattieshouse

    hattieshouse said 6 years ago

    It's difficult to be a parent when you want what is best for your child but also to have the same interests and likes as you do. But I would rather have my son exude his own personality than come out as a crazed, tweed wearing serial killer (that would make for a fantastic story line if you ask me). Tweed aside, it is our children's actions and character that makes us proud parents! I raise my glass of scotch to all fathers like yourself, who selfishly guide their children through life, loving them and believing in the whole time!

  • bialakura

    bialakura said 6 years ago

    when you soround your child with good design, music, books, toys than he will feel the difference in quality facing something that is not that good:)

  • sewmoe

    sewmoe said 6 years ago

    What a delightful interlude to my day! I actually think about this a lot...great read!

  • paramountvintage

    paramountvintage said 6 years ago

    what a funny thought. well taste is in the eyes of the beholder but one can always presume children will be largely influenced by their parents.

  • IcingOnTheCupcake

    IcingOnTheCupcake said 6 years ago

    It's funny to watch how your children gravitate towards the same interests as you do, as parents. My four year old loves to use his creative side, which I hope is partially because of me. Either way it is exciting to watch him find his own interests too. He no doubt will have the same feeling as my husband that the Dallas Cowboys suck... I'm not sure that is something he will have a choice of ;)

  • tocijewelry

    tocijewelry said 6 years ago

    I think that good taste is something you learn. Based in my own experience, I remember watching my mother pick what she was going to wear when I was a little girl. I remember her making comments such as “ You never wear a bottom brown and a top green because you look like a tree”. I’m sure that at some point I mentioned the same thing to my 25 years old daughter as she was growing up. This is just a small example of what I believe we learn as we are growing up and then pass it to our kids.

  • MegansMenagerie

    MegansMenagerie said 6 years ago

    I think so. My daughter watches me create all the time and I include her as much as possible. She shows great interest in wanting to try new things! I love how creative she is and she's only 6!

  • calebgardner

    calebgardner said 6 years ago

    This is very encouraging stuff, everyone. Thanks for the responses!

  • ikabags

    ikabags said 6 years ago

    They are learning lots of things fro us, we are learning from them, my sons watches me when I am sewing, painting , cutting and we are singing song together, life is wonderful together !

  • worksofwhimsy

    worksofwhimsy said 6 years ago

    It's so cute that you actually think you have any power over something like taste. As the mother of 2 teenagers, I can tell you that they will explore their own style, no matter what you say, and that is a wonderful thing! It's part of growing up and becoming an individual and something that I think should be encouraged. (within limits, of course).

  • CarryTheWord

    CarryTheWord said 6 years ago

    As the mother of two grown kids, I think you just do the best you can at the time, and it's always a surprise how they turn out!

  • redhardwick

    redhardwick said 6 years ago

    Thanks for sharing. I hope my husband and I have a positive influence on him. I think it's so important to encourage his creative side and be supportive.

  • ChrissiesRibbons

    ChrissiesRibbons said 6 years ago

    I had to laugh at your 'hours of watching Thomas the Tank Engine'.... I have been doing just that with my little boy too! My husband has been slowly introducing some vintage Tom and Jerry videos into the playlists (mainly I suspect because HE still finds them funny!) and my son is enjoying those now too! It is an important and significant issue but I think you seem to have just the right approach. Good Luck! :)

  • creativeplus

    creativeplus said 6 years ago

    I am mother of 15 months old boy!your article inspires me cool! keep going with your style be cool and care to the earth:)

  • Parachute425

    Parachute425 said 6 years ago

    As a once-upon-a-time fashion designer with two hopelessly unfashionable daughters I want to bite my tongue off every time I utter those crushing mom words “You’re wearing that?!”. You would think my tongue would be very short by now but surprisingly I find, with a good nights sleep, it grows back.

  • dragonhouseofyuen

    dragonhouseofyuen said 6 years ago

    this was a very interesting read! and I read all the comments! I'm not a mum, I'm an aunty and I hope my 2 nieces grow up to be loving towards animals (they already are, so I can relax!! ha ha) but I know what Caleb means. I grew up in a house filled with classical music and operas and ballet and to me, that is taste that never runs dry (even though I dress like a boy), so taste is shown in many different ways :) embrace and love your son, he will always want to be like you if you show him that - and congratulations on being a new father :)

  • sewserene

    sewserene said 6 years ago

    I gave my son his first mohawk when he was 3 months old, and it was awesome. My mom hated it and said I was torturing her grandchild. That was his only mohawk until a few weeks ago, just before his 5th birthday he told me, "Mom, I want a mohawk." It sounds dumb, but I was proud. Almost as proud as when, at age 3, he started singing "Blitzkrieg Bop" out of nowhere. With me, he listens to punk, helps me cut and sew things, and plays video games. With his dad, he listens to hip-hop, paints, and plays sports. Together, we all have fun and share a silly, sarcastic sense of humor. As your kid starts to grow up, you'll see more of yourself in him, but you'll definitely see a brand new, much cooler little person there.

  • rarebeasts

    rarebeasts said 6 years ago

    Thinking about it is a great start. You will rock. Great article.

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery said 6 years ago

    A very honest an open article, its good to approach these questions in life. I have some of the same values as my parents and others are different but that's ok. We're all individuals after all..

  • turnanewleafdesigns

    turnanewleafdesigns said 6 years ago

    You said it best SEWSERENE..... I have 2 children, a boy and girl and they both show so much of both my husband and myself. However, still their own self shines. I think that as long as you can lay your head down at night and think to yourself that you are the best parent you can be, things are as good as they should be. It takes caring parents to raise caring children.

  • blessedvintage

    blessedvintage said 6 years ago


  • TheOmegaWorkshop

    TheOmegaWorkshop said 6 years ago

    I think it's very possible! My kids are soooo sorted! I have instilled honesty, a need for empathy and what's important in life, to them, and they are both turning out to be very responsible and well rounded young adults! I think taste develops from being well led, by parents, and the more cultured & wordly you are, will in turn have a great impact!

  • BanglewoodSupplies

    BanglewoodSupplies said 6 years ago

    Sweet read!

  • rebourne

    rebourne said 6 years ago

    As a girl who grew up with three brothers, it has been interesting having two daughters and now a son. I worry about my girls' wearing princess dresses, wanting to paint their nails, and wear fancy shoes. I get frustrated when they want to change out of their princess dress into a fairy dress, or when their princess dress isn't long enough because it only reaches their mid-calf (NOT THE FLOOR!). I am working on being okay with their personal style, and trying to let them have their time of pink fancy. It's not my style: I would rather wear practical clothes that allow me to hop on my bike or jump in puddles. But I know it is an important time, even in the preschool years, to have a reasonable amount of frill. I'm scared of the teenage years. !!

  • bchildrenswear

    bchildrenswear said 6 years ago

    What a beautifully written article. He is one lucky kid to have a dad that cares about him so much. Thank you for including a photo of my onesie in the midst of your thought provoking words. Im humbled.

  • outrageousjavi

    outrageousjavi said 6 years ago

    THIS IS GREAT! Good taste is never bad so keep it up! You're doing awesome!

  • MishaGirl

    MishaGirl said 6 years ago

    It's sweet that you care enough to pass along your notion of good taste to your son. The greatest influence will of course come from having a great relationship with him. I am sure he'll look up to you in many ways, and because this is one of the things that is important to you, he will probably pick up on that...and add a few individual twists of his own. Who knows, he may end up influencing you as well and then you'll truly know that you've succeeded.

  • BooPatch

    BooPatch said 6 years ago

    I can safely say that taste is a learned trait...My mom is an eccentric, unique, loyal, wild child. Her taste in clothes ran towards whatever was most comfy. Even if that was gardening in boxers she sewed the fly shut on...(pity my teenage years). But she was also usually the one who was the most well dressed when it came time to dress up. She is still the person who doesn't care what anyone thinks about what she's wearing but she wears it well and proud. Now...I tend to put a tad more effort into one son never matches what he wears and doesn't really care one way or the other. He's been known to wear two different socks...My other son however...has been dressing himself since he was 2. And even before that it was a struggle. I have resigned myself that one will let me dress him in whatever I want and the other will only resign himself to letting me help :-) and I'm okay with that...because they are loyal, loving and individually unique...Just as your son will be because of you...

  • thevelvetheart

    thevelvetheart said 6 years ago

    Ha ha! Yes, I wonder about my sons' taste in things too and I'm sure my husband does as well!

  • theroyal

    theroyal said 6 years ago

    them kids. they will always rebel :)

  • BauerDesigns

    BauerDesigns said 6 years ago

    My husband and I could have written a similar article. We have a 3 yr old daughter that hopped into the world bold and adventurous. Everyday we try to make time to recapture our childhoods with her while she explores her own. Sure that may involve finding all of the old awesome toys we had as kids in the 80's (and a few we didn't but wished for at birthdays, ha!), but she shows us new things too, like Thomas (the songs drive me nuts!) and how Gogurt is pretty convenient in it's little tube. All we can do is grow together, make good memories - who knows who we'll all grow up to be in 20 years : )

  • beachglassshop

    beachglassshop said 6 years ago

    you, Dad are going to be just fine....

  • kumashepard

    kumashepard said 6 years ago

    I think I've narrowed it down to the two things I want to teach my 11month old daughter, and that is to live with passion, and to think for herself. Whatever joy she finds, whether its art, music, or a million other things, I want her to find her passion, and to go for it. And whatever people tell her, or whatever she reads in a book, I want her to question and contemplate and find her own answers, instead of blindly following what the world tells her to believe. Everything else will work itself out :)

  • ChipperCuteGirl

    ChipperCuteGirl said 6 years ago

    Love it! Loving, laughing and living your cool side DO rub off and will be remembered and emulated - so live it up!

  • EnRouteStudio

    EnRouteStudio said 6 years ago

    ahhhh... who is cuter... dad or son? love this. wish I was in your shoes.

  • EnRouteStudio

    EnRouteStudio said 6 years ago

    also agree with kumashepard. Wish kuma shepard was my parent. My parents are coming around though! I heard today after a CNNMoney Article featuring my story that they actually fought over 'whose' daughter i was more, his or hers... but with 3,000 new visitors to my website in the past 2 days ...we'll see if I am actually my own person yet. :)

  • dekanimal

    dekanimal said 6 years ago

    Great Post !! Thank you for sharing :)

  • VintageChildModern

    VintageChildModern said 6 years ago

    As a children's fashion designer, I loved this read. I don't have my own children yet, but I drag all my family member's little ones to music and art events and try to offer them different perspectives. I think the best thing we can do for little minds is to show them how big the world is so they have the opportunity to find their place in it.

  • CottageClever

    CottageClever said 6 years ago

    As a newcomer here at Etsy it's my first time to the blog. Very interesting, thought provoking read as a mother of 4 grown children. Did I get the important stuff through to them? My daughter is taking care of my mother who has alhzeimers this week. She decided to take her to the Zoo, she called me when they returned home to tell me how much fun they had, and that Grama just loved the train. For me, I'm guessing something got through. Although, sometimes it just takes awhile to see it. Just be the best model you can be.

  • TheScarfTree

    TheScarfTree said 6 years ago

    You sound like a great dad, making the right start in the right direction! Being a parent you just know things once your child is born - it is the 6th sense that has been given to the human connection and those close to us! He is very lucky you design some of his clohes! Very cool! Wishing you all the best in what you do!

  • expressyourself

    expressyourself said 6 years ago

    Superb post!

  • embryoCPH

    embryoCPH said 6 years ago


  • tiarauniquedesign

    tiarauniquedesign said 6 years ago

    agreed too :)

  • Verdurebydesign

    Verdurebydesign said 6 years ago

    I very much enjoyed reading your article. The most important thing for me is for my children to be happy in their own skin. That makes our family vibrant and we learn to appreciate each others differences (sometimes that is not easy :) ) Enjoy your journey!

  • fuzzysushi

    fuzzysushi said 6 years ago

    When my kids were very, very young I think I felt the same way. But, as they get older it becomes clearer how very much they are their own little people. And, for me, it is more fun to watch them grow their own hearts than to mold them into little me's.

  • GrowingUpWild

    GrowingUpWild said 6 years ago

    This reminded me of a line in the book "Big Russ and Me" in which Tim Russert talks about the moment in which he realized his son was his own person, not an extension of himself. I want my son to find his own path and happiness. I will enjoy every minute of watching him become who he meant to be!

  • Gamut

    Gamut said 6 years ago

    As a mother of 4 grown kids-your voice, the things you tell them will be in their heads a long, long time.

  • willowbaus

    willowbaus said 6 years ago

    kumashepard- awesome! I am right there with you. My boys like to wear hideous spiderman shirts with sweatpants and pirate hats- definitely not what I would choose for them, but I just sit back and watch their little characters unfold. SInce we are all a work in progress, I am giving them freedom to choose their own taste and figure out what they love- while secretly wishing they will loop around to be like my husband and me. I guess it's all about immersion and saturation. Love this!

  • PolClary

    PolClary said 6 years ago

    My children both have incredibly weird tastes. My son does LARP and my daughter is working her way through every dystopian science fiction novel she can find. It's amusing, because I thought our tastes were very different. But in the last year, my daughter has exclaimed many times: Mum/Dad, I didn't know you were such a geek back when you were my age! Did you really watch that show? Did you really spend all your babysitting money on buying yarn? Turns out, we were nerdy all along. We just didn't know it yet!

  • FoxyRoxysAttic

    FoxyRoxysAttic said 6 years ago

    Love this! I have 4 kids of my own and a stepson. The oldest is 10 and is showing signs of being a chip off the old block....all of them are...except for my 8 yr old.....who has always tried to be an extremely "preppy/duckheady" fellow. I cringe at his polos...... :)

  • animalcracker

    animalcracker said 6 years ago

    Kumashepard - great post. ..


    FOLKMAN said 6 years ago

    This post is a great one. I love that people are asking these questions. You mention that all parents ask these questions but I'm not so sure of that. Either way I'm happy to see some do ask them. I don't have any kids so my contribution to this thread may or may not be useful. I think that until a certain age kids definitely use their parents' taste as a guide for understanding their own.. but personally I think a better way to to go about this is not to transplant your own sense of taste and aesthetics onto them..but rather to pay attention to your child as an individual enough to recognize when he is beginning to become aware of himself as individual and kind of point out to him what he already gravitates toward. That way he will not only be comfortable in his own skin but he'll also know how to listen to himself, trust himself and his intuition, and also how to communicate his true feelings about something. Maybe taste seems like a fairly surface thing but I think the way we learn how to have taste has a deep impact on some very below-the-surface things that end up shaping the patterns we live out as adults.

  • WakeUpTheAngel

    WakeUpTheAngel said 6 years ago

    Great article. Rest assured that not matter how cool or special a parent you are part of your child will work at NOT being like the parent. Best things to do are live a clean good life, show by example how to be a decent person, apologize when you mess up - notice I didn't say *if* you mess up - insist the child practice what is decent - they can always do otherwise when then move out, let them know that any education is a good thing, working at something and learning about managing money is a good thing - even 50 cents a week can be planned with. And finally hair is just hair - it grows, can be cut - whatever. Too many parents lose their minds over their kids' hair- if you child wants to do something *special* with theirs take them to a professional to have it done correctly. :)

  • GloryBDesign

    GloryBDesign said 6 years ago

    It's obvious that you're a loving, caring father! That's the most important trait you can have. As a mother of two young adults (a daughter and a son), it's amazing to see two children grow up in the same environment with so many of the same experiences and influences, and see them grow into two so distinctively different individuals. I see bits of myself in each, as well as bits of their dad, and other relatives. My son shares so many traits with my older brother, who sadly passed away years before my son was ever born. My daughter exhibits many traits of her paternal grandmother that passed away when my daughter was in elementary school. So there's no doubt that much of their makeup is hereditary. Still, values are learned, and your children will learn so much from observing how you live your life. Being a psychology major, I remember from my studies that father's generally have more influence over their children's spiritual development than anyone else in their lives. In the end, how our children learn to give and receive love and kindness is much more important than whether they choose to wear tweed or homespun.

  • littleshopofphotos

    littleshopofphotos said 6 years ago

    This is such a great post. Everyone is different, but I feel that if you set a good example, that's what is important because that is how children learn how to act. It seems as though you are a wonderful father!

  • opendoorstudio

    opendoorstudio said 6 years ago

    Funny, about 4 years ago, in my home full of interesting vintage finds and at the peak of my abstract painting days, my daughter would swear off all things vintage " when I have a place of my own it will be stark white with only a few new sculptures, the newest in furniture and appliances, not like all this old junk we have around here. " the other day,( 4 years later and worlds apart) my daughter came out or her room... filled with 70's goodness, by her choice, and asked where my canvas' were. She and her boyfriend had decided to begin doing some acrylic painting. Hours later she presented me with a beautiful floral to adorn my our industrial vintage home, where she is now very happy to be! people tell her all the time now, You are EXACTLY like your mom. Not sure if that is a good thing or bad...But I LOVE it!

  • pajamasnpaintbrushes

    pajamasnpaintbrushes said 6 years ago

    Nice article, Caleb :) My son just turned two too :) ..the good thing about having boys is that there's less chance that they will do the whole "rebellious phase" least, I'm telling myself that's more a teenaged girl thing, lol. I'm sure your son will inherit your penchant for all things classy ;)

  • kathyjohnson3

    kathyjohnson3 said 6 years ago

    That's the wonder of having a child, it's like a blank slate, they take the knowledge and interests that you have given them, and later you stand back and just look at all the wonderful ideas and talents they have come up with on thier own, and yet you can see yourself amongst it all, and finally can relax and say "I did ok" they are going to be fine in this world. I always believed children learn what they live. Love your children unconditionally, set good examples, because one day you will look back and see that they have become by what you taught them by example.

  • candroid007

    candroid007 said 6 years ago

    Great article, well said... We're expecting our first baby and all of these type of questions have been at the forefront... exciting and nerve-wracking.

  • slumbersoft

    slumbersoft said 6 years ago

    Wow, what great thoughts. I enjoyed it very much. I remember hoping my daughter would sew and quilt like I do. Now I am hoping maybe the next grandchild will be a girl so I can teach her to sew and also I can make little dresses for her. Not that don't adore my grandsons but I really need a grandaugter. You sound like a great day. Best to you and your little family.

  • stinaj2003

    stinaj2003 said 6 years ago

    I've had the same thoughts with my 5 month old little girl. I remember sitting with my dad listening to music or shopping with him (yes, my dad shops, not my mom) and I am forever influenced by his and my mom's tastes and personalities. Children are so impressionable. The interesting thing is I have an older sister and a younger brother, and we are SO different, but each of us have a piece of our parents. What a great read. Just be you, and he'll want to be like you.

  • calebgardner

    calebgardner said 6 years ago

    You guys are hilarious! Thanks so much for the encouraging thoughts.

  • thevintagecrafter

    thevintagecrafter said 6 years ago

    My boys are in their 40's now, I remember clearly when they were teens and early 20's when, as Caleb says, "everything [we parents] said was the opposite of cool". We had to stand back and let them each walk the balance bar on their own. In the end they both followed their father's academic path and have solid marriages - to women who also grew up in academic families. Children who grow up knowing their extended families (grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles as well as parents) seem to absorb taste and values - they seem to wash softly over them like watercolors - while no one is looking.

  • vintagemaison

    vintagemaison said 6 years ago

    I have learned to say 'you look great darling' when I actually think my daughter looks a bit bizarre. It's her way of expressing herself and actually, I quite like the fact she doesn't follow my choice. It wouldn't be right if she did. My son is just discovering good shirts, nice jackets - a huge change from his usual rock black tee shirts and jeans. He wears his red hair long, curly and wild - I think he should have been born 40 years ago! They both look good, individual in their taste and NOTHING like their mum and dad!

  • rivahside

    rivahside said 6 years ago

    My children are grown now but I remember the questions I had when they were little. How to teach them about the important things in life? Sometimes you have to flat-out tell them how you feel about things. Other times you teach them by example. They ARE watching and they DO remember. When they were teens and the tough questions came from them I wasn't sure how to answer. My mother wisely said, "You've got to tell them how you feel about certain things. You give them your values-what do you value? And why do you value it? (Teens want to know why their parents believe what they believe.) Then, when they're old enough they'll either agree or disagree with how and what they were taught. But don't let them flounder around without any anchor". Her advice served me well. I wish the same for you!

  • Underthebedcreations

    Underthebedcreations said 6 years ago

    For my mother, style was as important as good table manners, and just like we aim to teach kids proper etiquette we can teach them the *proper* way of seeing the world. :P My mom definitely instilled in me her sense of taste and style. It was only in my late teens (and to be perfectly honest moved out of the house to go to college), that I realized her style was not "The Law" of fashion.

  • swagalot

    swagalot said 6 years ago

    It can be passed down, but skip a generation!

  • sarahndipities

    sarahndipities said 6 years ago

    Great article! I'm the mother of four (soon to be five) children, ages 10 to three, and all I can say is: they are each individuals! Even though there are some things that we all enjoy together, the truth is they all have their own styles and personalities...what music they like, what they like to do, how they like to dress...and that's what makes them THEM. And I wouldn't have it any other way!

  • ChristeneC

    ChristeneC said 6 years ago

    I remember when I was pregnant with our first child, my husband and I would stay up at night and ponder the same types of questions. It is really nice to know other parents do the same thing.

  • Mettlle

    Mettlle said 6 years ago

    thanks for sharing great post.

  • girliepains

    girliepains said 6 years ago


  • yimmekedesign

    yimmekedesign said 6 years ago

    I grew up with a staunch father who only wanted to hear accordion music and a stepmother who was stuck in the second world war. There was absolutely no way I could analyze or develop my own taste. Knowing how debilitating this was for me, I wanted my two sons to grow up with lots of love, good morals, great principles but most of all FREE to express themselves. No matter what, I would let them have their extravagance. Well, they left the extravagance and pleasantly oddness to their mom and they themselves grew up to be" very well dressed" and "balanced". Poo hoo, I am still the only wacko, but there is so much love....and I am so proud of that!!!

  • MossFrogDesigns

    MossFrogDesigns said 6 years ago

    I believe that passing down your tastes to your kids is important. As an artist and opera singer, I cringe at the thought of my child hating the art world, but as said, they are your kids and you love them regardless! That being said, I want my kids to develop their own interests, but don't fault me for trying to pass down my own. I was the "odd ball" in my family. Being raised in central Texas, if you didn't like country music, and despised boots...well, let's just say my middle and high school years were awkward! Thank God for my mother, who let me dye my hair pink, and wear all black every day, even though it made me look like a ghost, and attrached all kinds of whispers at church. Support, is the most important factor! I believe, if my children aren't hurting themselves, or anyone else. Go ahead. Dye your hair ten colors. Wear all black and listen to loud rock music.

  • retroattack

    retroattack said 6 years ago

    Vwey interesting post! And so instructive!!!! Thank you for sharing!

  • EscargotArtsyBits

    EscargotArtsyBits said 6 years ago

    Ahh, I remember when I was the benevolent Auntie who would sweep in, take em for ice cream and a movie and drop them back home! My sons are now 12 and 14. Do I really need to go on? The elder is much more like I am in most things: can entertain himself, well mannered, respectful of adults, but that 2nd one is ... not. Why does this happen? Can anyone else relate to this phenomena? Of course, I too am a 1st born who had a rotten little brother - he's cool now that we are 40ish!

  • janisrallen

    janisrallen said 6 years ago

    I remember 10 hour car rides to visit my Grandmother. All my father would listen to was NPR and the Beatles. The History Channel and PBS were also always on in our home. I hated it at the time. I find now, as an adult, I love all that stuff. Darn him ;)

  • Bailoutabarista

    Bailoutabarista said 6 years ago

    You will make a very good DAD. I feel it in me bones. I enjoyed your post. Congratulations!

  • janisrallen

    janisrallen said 6 years ago

    P.S. No matter how hard you try or don't try to pass on your tastes to him, if you are yourself around him, he is certain to pick some of it up.

  • FruitsOFtheBLooM

    FruitsOFtheBLooM said 6 years ago

    I recently told my daughter that if she didn't have a good eye for color I might have had to disown her. Thankfully, she inherited my flair for art, but this just might have been heavily influenced by how many art museums, galleries and art shows I drug her through for all of her formative years. Hooray for impressionable kids, we do manage to make a mark on those brains no matter how hard they try not to be like their parents! I have faith you'll be passing down the herringbone tweed in a few years.

  • NohoLife

    NohoLife said 6 years ago

    To me, it's all about upbringing. It's not direct or explicit instructions. It's about how the parents, their friends, their environments, the books, the movies, the music, sights, chats, interactions, exposures, opinions...

  • synchronopolis

    synchronopolis said 6 years ago

    Good luck, dad!!

  • daphneoz1

    daphneoz1 said 6 years ago

    ah, finally, a man whom does not shy away, you`ll be ok, just ok../ hope I can read more of you in say 20 years, just as a follow up..... a child is like a flower, they just blossom , with the right time, for rewarding and a right tie for repremanding, I have three sons, and i to was dead afraid of motherhood, but by golly, I would not change one min of any day that i am granted to have children, as they are just borrowed to us for a short while.... god bless Dad, you`ll make your son proud.....

  • Tina669

    Tina669 said 6 years ago

    Good luck, dad!!

  • chocolatedogstudio

    chocolatedogstudio said 6 years ago

    The one thing to remember is that kids ultimately make their own decisions and that we as parents really have no say in those decisions. They are themselves and sometimes they make bad choices that have no bearing on what they were taught! Many times they make better choices than I would at their age!

  • acgabbard

    acgabbard said 6 years ago

    Just have to say that I nearly choked on my OJ when I read "jumpsuit-wearing Nickelback fan." That, too, is one of my greatest fears. ;)

  • DrawnByKat

    DrawnByKat said 6 years ago

    from my experience being a kid (not a parent): be patient on the taste side of things! your kids will have so many influences growing up, and will sometimes act out and oppose you in superficial ways (like wearing things that you would clearly think or tacky or listening to music you wouldn't like) but they will eventually come around on that score, and it's much less important than making sure your kids don't act out/oppose your core values! so ... if your kid comes home one day requesting a stupid toy all his friends have, or decides to dress like his generation's version of a vampire wannabe, don't be discouraged!

  • Hush8

    Hush8 said 6 years ago

    My parents have no taste. I developed good taste on my own. I remember thinking that I hated pretty much everything they liked when I was a kid. The only thing that we really have in common is genes and political party. It's been my experience that kids seem to rebel more often than not and reject everything that their parents stand for. All you can do is expose them to the things you find important and hope it sticks. Keep in mind that what you find good taste now might be very different from what is considered good taste in 20 years.

  • WeddingLab

    WeddingLab said 6 years ago

    I would also recommend The National To my kids!! Great article!

  • lizcoolmompicks

    lizcoolmompicks said 6 years ago

    Love everything about this Caleb. Yay for more cool dads in the world. (Also for more Cowboys haters)

  • bibitty

    bibitty said 6 years ago

    Just tweeted my response, but as a mom who has watched two very independent daughters grow into their own little people....regardless of how many times I've been told that I'm 'so uncool'... they have always attempted to duplicate the things they see me do in their own unique ways. Your kids look up to you regardless of what they say to sound cool. You may not be able to shape every decision they make in their lives, that's where being an individual comes into play, but you can definitely affect the people they become on the most important fundamental levels...How they they view themselves, and how they will treat others.

  • complicatedshoes

    complicatedshoes said 6 years ago

    I love this post, and as a childless 30-something who is sort of agonizing over the idea of having to probably give up all my freedom to a baby in the next few years, I think about this subject a lot. I have visions of having a kid who appreciates The Velvet Underground and everything on Merge Records, who sketches and paints in their spare time, and enjoys the films of Wes Anderson. Then I look around at some of the local teenagers in our South Philly neighborhood, wearing incredibly short shorts with Uggs, chain smoking, and screaming and cursing their little heads off, and I think "Oh my god, what if it's totally out of my control?!?! What if this is their group of friends, and my making them listen to NPR and Belle and Sebastian doesn't do a damn thing??" Scary stuff.

  • DesignsStainedGlass

    DesignsStainedGlass said 6 years ago

    Great article. Thanks for sharing.

  • LeewardBe

    LeewardBe said 6 years ago

    When I was in middle school - The Nirvana Years - everyone I knew was finding their parents' old records; The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Grateful Dead... I went through MY parent's old records, hoping to find something I could brag about. I found Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Willy Nelson, Hank Williams (Sr.), etc. I was embarrassed. I listened to them anyway, secretly, and LOVED them all. Outwardly, I pretended to like Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, and Pearl Jam. Ten years later, that's all anyone was talking about. Everyone suddenly loved Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings, and Merle Haggard..and I already knew all of their songs, and had all their albums. Of course, everyone already knew that, as I had stopped pretending by 8th grade and just listened to what I liked. I could bond with my parents AND the hipsters. Of course, their pants got tighter and their attitudes got hipper and I ditched them (or they ditched me...I think it was a mutual breakup where we're "still friends" but never talk), but that's not the point. The point is simply this: Every kid has bad taste. But every kid eventually gets over it. Personally, I look forward to telling my nonexistent kids to 'turn that noise down' and feeling a little bit like my father. And a little bit closer to him, too.

  • Schliess

    Schliess said 6 years ago

    I don't have kids (yet?) and it never crossed my mind that worry about his kid being into the wrong thing (excluding drugs, dangerous behavior etc.) Let your child be who he will be, and never fault him for it. He's going to think what you like is old man's stuff, my dad was a hippie in the 60's and he thought that his music was the best. I disagreed, not because it was what he liked, it was because it was the 90's and I had my own current stuff to be into.

  • DorisandBetty

    DorisandBetty said 6 years ago

    guide them but give them the freedom to be who they are. sure, they go through the phase of thinking you're SO boring, SO old, SO out of touch etc etc, but as they grow they become well rounded people you can be proud of. I love my boys!!!

  • DorisandBetty

    DorisandBetty said 6 years ago

    oh yes, and NEVER vacuum at 9am on sunday...let them sleep....

  • bhmakes

    bhmakes said 6 years ago

    I don't have kids but I do have a dad... and, lucky for me, he is brilliant. For all the style/taste he doesn't always have in clothes (wax jackets?? stars n stripes n dots shirts??), the style/taste he has in music makes up for. For every opinion we have disagreed on there has been something we have agreed on. A few of the things that make me think he is cool... he taught me how to do crosswords, how to tie my school tie, how to use chopsticks, how to use numerous wood working tools and other machinery, he is unflappable and kind, funny and weird, somewhat socially inept and always himself. Dads, in my opinion, are cool. Your son will think you're ace even if he likes a different football team. And fingers crossed Nickelback will be nowt but a memory by the time he chooses his own music ;)

  • DesignDominique

    DesignDominique said 6 years ago

    My Mum and Dad listened to the Rolling Stones when all of my friends parents listened to Frank Sinatra, Mum wore mini skirts she made from the wildest fabric, that my daughter would kill for now. We are a family who love to dress to suit ourselves and damn the opinion of others. I always thought I had no style at all, but it turns out I've been wrong all along I was confusing fashion with style. One you can buy, the other is innate.

  • DelaneyFrank

    DelaneyFrank said 6 years ago

    ohhh nelly, how timely. i used to think that my son had superb taste like me. he preferred chopin to pop. he was drawn to pingret over warhol. he laughed at the likes of abbot and costello. he liked listening to me read long russian novels. last week he came home and told me he liked eminem. i was not amused, but i did not want to react as abrasively as my own parents did when my brothers came home with judas priest. so i found some eminem on a friend's ipod and we listened to it together and we discussed the reasons he liked it, and the reasons i didn't. in the end, he liked the incorporation of classical music in contemporary music. so maybe i hadn't raised a stranger after all. in fact he asked me if he could pick up his piano lessons again, and take extra in the summer. in the end, i think we have to let them develop their own taste, but hopefully we give them the skills to understand what taste is and respect that our tastes may differ, but maybe we can learn from each others favorites. i mean we've lived this long in the same house and he's a cubs fan and i'm a giants fan, so there's hope out there.

  • trendoffice

    trendoffice said 6 years ago

    Taste is part of the overall personality and it is being created along with everything else, as children grow and observe and practice everything we do. I know it from experience that culture is first created at home - children see what we do, how we dress, how we react to the world. And ask a lot of questions - there begins the building of their cultural foundations. From this starting point they estimate things that happen to them later in life. Personal experience and proper attitude define where they will go. And there is something else - what we have inhareted from our parents and grand parents always obviously influences our ability to see beauty and aspire to it everywhere.

  • Marumadrid

    Marumadrid said 6 years ago

    Not only style: If you pass him a sense of dignity, in fact the clothes or the coolness are optional. I'll never forget a taxi driver who once told me "Maybe my clothes are a bit old and out of fashion, but they're clean and I carry them with dignity. That always do the trick".

  • secondarycreations

    secondarycreations said 6 years ago

    My mom was once despondent about her "legacy" because a lot of the offspring weren't following all of the traditional values she'd wanted to pass on. I pointed out to her that she had 6 kids, 11 grandkids, and 14 great-grandkids, and not a single one of them would ever purposely hurt another human being - that's something to be proud of.

  • cindysta

    cindysta said 6 years ago

    from way the other side of babies, onesies and thomas... my suggestions are: be more concerned with what is in their heads than what grows on top of it. pay more attention to what is in their hearts than the shirt covering it. Try to be loving and gentle, even when you would rather bang your head against the wall,..... this they will remember. Fasten your seat belt and hold on.... its one heck of a ride!.

  • VonlenskaVintage

    VonlenskaVintage said 6 years ago

    My Dad used to tell me he had this same worry about my younger sister and I. Although he dons a button down and tie for work every day, weekends have him back with a bandanna 'round his head, sporting jeans and graphic tees that cover his sword impaled "Rock N Roll" heart tattoo. As a new father, he saw all of his friends sticking guitars in their kids hands and playing them Jethro Tull when they were three, and that he wanted us develop our passions on our own, and I'm grateful that. As far as music, I got to fully experience the Spice Girls and N'Sync as a girl, and great rock n roll later on when I could really appreciate it. And I'm still always finding new things (not just music) that change and add depth to the way the world feels to me. Perhaps while trying to avoid steering me down any path too narrow, my father inadvertently passed on an ability to appreciate variety and change, as well as a quiet confidence in who I am as an individual.

  • ChristineElla17

    ChristineElla17 said 6 years ago

    I used to putter around in my mom's heels, letting my little feet slip around inside. Now, I'm happy we're the same size.

  • Tina669

    Tina669 said 6 years ago

    Sweet read!

  • dirtylovejoy

    dirtylovejoy said 6 years ago

    I'm a new mother now and I totally get how you feel about wanting to pass on your interests -which you think are cool- to your son. I think the same things as a mother and I'm sure my husband does too. To be honest, I think maybe I might cringe if he finds interests in things that are really corny. But then again, I might be the one with the issue not letting him be himself and explore the world as it presents itself to him. But still, secretly, I want him to be seriously cool, have impeccable style, and be a worldly man. There, I said it. :))

  • 2becontinued13

    2becontinued13 said 6 years ago

    This is so entertaining. I'm glad other people have the same rambling thoughts going on in their heads :-)

  • lilsoak

    lilsoak said 6 years ago

    things to ponder over. i just hope my kid just embraces his individual style instead of succumbing to the pressure. Easier said than done.

  • ersimarina

    ersimarina said 6 years ago

    Your son is a different individual and he may well develop tastes and styles you don't like. You'd like to point him to the 'right' direction but who defines what's 'right'? In terms of style, I mean. I think you will have a wonderful time being his father, teaching him and learning from him but don't try to make him an extension of your individuality. Because there can be no two individuals alike :)

  • kevin14denver

    kevin14denver said 6 years ago

    I'm an old dad (60) with 4 kids, oldest 26, youngest still 12 and all I can say is enjoy the ride - kids are a blast and they are their own beings. That being said ,your example/input is super important - loses some strength during the teens and circles back around when they get older. One thing I came across recently that I would look into - we are avid readers here - are the books written/drawn by Shaun Tan - Australian artist/writer/animation guy - they will blow your mind - definitely for the younger set. HAVE FUN

  • Free2BeMeJewelry

    Free2BeMeJewelry said 6 years ago

    As a child grows into an individual they seem to hole heartily rebel against there parents loves and likes but deep down they embrace things that there parents also love. Here is an a child I was all about green day, weezer, modest mouse (etc etc etc). I never would of listen to that "old" stuff mom and dad liked....but as a women when "I Heard it Through The Grapevine" or "Respect" comes on the radio I shout out every word and do a little dance in the kitchen...Why, because that is what my parents taught me:) So keep on being you and a little of you will most definitely rub off on him!

  • BelladonnasJoy

    BelladonnasJoy said 6 years ago

    Everything goes wonky in their teen years...but there is hope, it all settles back down again, at the appropriate age. If you worry they aren't getting all the important stuff, don't worry....they do. It just takes time to see it. I agree with Judi, I bet you're an awesome Dad:)

  • MisfitJewels

    MisfitJewels said 6 years ago

    Dude, I went through the same questions over and over again when I found out my wife was pregnant. I even freaked to the point where one day I found myself just sitting in the floor of my Jewelry room like a crazy crackhead just rocking myself back and forth wondering how the heck I was going to influence my sons life in a positive way. Needless to say he has a complete character of his own however I do dress him myself most of the time and he looks like a miniature version of me with his skinny jeans and awesome buttondown and kicks. . . Not to mention he is probably the biggest fan of my jewelry, he is 1 1/2 years old and every morning when he wakes up and sees one of my latest pieces he yells out "Niiiiiiiiiiiiiiccceeee" I am very affectionate with him and in turn when he does something he knows he shouldnt have he can distinguish the look of dissapointment in my face and he tries to redeem himself. . .That shows me he will always try and make me proud. even if it means telling me i'm cool when he knows I'm not. Good Luck dude, you're doin great already as a Dad.

  • OpusMuse

    Nicole from OpusMuse said 5 years ago

    What a good read on this article and everyones' perspective! When it comes to children, I believe the phrase "watch & learn" holds true. They watch & absorb everything you and everyone else is doing or saying without you even noticing! I don't think you need to literally do anything in particular, they know. Trust me. Sometimes my 5 year old would come up to me and surprise me by telling me things she observed about a family member or friend. I'm sure you'll take it in your stride with passing things on to your little one.

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